World Cup, Then There Were Four
“Vikings Mauled By Three Lions” would be an apt sports-page headline after what occurred in Samara Saturday.
Spectacular goal keeping by Jordan Pickford along with his great distribution made him the man of the match.
The red shirts non-stop offensive thrust kept the men in yellow on their heals most of the game. To say that the Tre Kroner were insipid in the attack would be overstating the facts.
Eight of England’s eleven goals have come from set pieces and both Harry Maguire and Dele Alli found the net on brilliant headers.
Defensively Jordan Henderson was the midfield star of the game with pin-point clearance passes and timely tackles.
Harry Kane was not on the score sheet but was a constant threat that the Swedes had to look out for.
Is this English team for real? Yes, and next up is Croatia, who are lion-hearted themselves.
Then, welcome to “Battle of Sochi.”
Historical enemies Russia and Croatia pulled out the heavy artillery and went at it for 120 minutes non-stop.
The Bear was at his most ferocious, but their checker-board foes gave as good as they received, witness the elbow to head of defender Kudriashov that would have left a normal man in a coma.
It was a gruelling fight with the home side Gallery Gods at their absolute loudest.
Cheryshev’s 31st minute pile driver into the top corner sent the crowd into a frenzy only to brought down to earth with Kramaric’s stooped header 8 minutes later.
In extra time the slugfest continued with blond bomber Vida popping one in for the invaders in the 101st.
Russian hearts sagged, but…
A fellow with a totally un-Russian name, Fernandes, was the hero of the moment as his leaping header equalized the count and lead to penalties.
In a tragedy almost equal to a great opera, the hero became the villain as Fernandes’ canon misfired wide in what would turn out to be the decisive miss in the shootout.
And who should the vanquishers call upon to raise the victory flag?
None other than Ivan Racitic, the same soldier that forced Denmark to surrender a few days earlier.
To the semi-finals go the spoils.
Croatia vs. England.
France was skillful in their dispatching of Uruguay but their 2-0 victory was achieved against only half of the South American’s deadly duo.
Edinson Cavani was absent on the pitch leaving Luis Suarez to roam alone. Sad, because they had played so beautifully together throughout this tournament.
Les Bleus were full measure for their victory and with keeper Lloris at his best they will be odds on favourites to win it all.
The Killer “B’s,” Brazil and Belgium flew around Kazan Arena with the yellow shirts scoring two goals…except one of them was into their own net.
Lukaku and De Bruyne combined for a classic run and gun goal that put the Red Devils two goals up before Brazil got their marker but it wasn’t enough and the Samba Kings beat will no longer be heard on the European continent.
Belgium meets France for some neighbourly love.